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Night Time.

* Driver Quartet * Comma Records

Filtered through a hungover film noir sensibility and as funky as an overflowing ashtray, the Driver Quartet's debut CD, Night Time, makes a swell sound track for a grainy black-and-white life. It's a tasty mix of new tunes and oldies, spiced with unexpected choices such as "High Noon" and "Moon River." The opener is a sultry "Night Time Was My Mother," Connie Pearce and Arnold Miller's 1950s gem, originally recorded by big band songbird June Christy. Vocalist David Driver's burnt-oak raspy baritone weaves languorously around the tune, punctuated by the after-hours sounds of Fil Krohnengold on piano and Peter Kiesewalter on clarinet.

The former front man for the band Meow and understudy for leads in Broadway's Rent, the openly gay Driver gets ultratight backing throughout Night Time from these aces, Adam Bernstein on acoustic bass, and a lush assortment of strings. Bernstein also provides fine original songs, including "Room for the New," about a family breakup, and "A Long Way Down, an unblinking consideration of the love thing.

Driver's as adept at a rambunctious take on Paul Simon's ambiguous and nostalgic "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" as he is with the schmaltzy "Imitation of Life." For this tune, from the Lana Turner tearjerker, Driver gives a full-out 1950s big baritone delivery worthy of Vic Damone.

Perhaps the most ultracurrent cut is "Here Lies Love." Once crooned by Bing Crosby, this mordant 1929 shell-shocked love obit is more redolent of Kurt Weill's Berlin cabaret songs than of Der Bingle. Each smokin' note is coffin-nailed by Driver and the guys. Night Time's as bracing as a double bourbon.

Velez is a New York City--based music writer.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:Velez, Andrew
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Sound Recording Review
Date:May 23, 2000
Words:280
Previous Article:Angel from Montgomery.
Next Article:All Hands on the Bad One.
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